“Doing is a quantum leap from imagining.” — Barbara Sher, American speaker, author and goal achievement guru.
In physics, the term “quantum leap” refers to an electron’s sudden jump to a higher energy state without, apparently, passing through the intervening distance. At subatomic scales, things happen that would never happen in our “big” world. Yet, it’s still such a fascinating and attractive notion that people have taken to using the term “quantum leap” when referring to spectacular feats.
While it doesn’t quite mesh—quantum effects can’t really manifest at human scales—it does serve as a useful shorthand for sudden improvement in performance or productivity. But unlike an electron’s quantum leap, the productive equivalent leaves clues as to how it happened. Let’s look under the microscope to determine how.
1. Study the situation. Take a close look at every aspect of your team and workplace setting you can think of: the individual players, the set of projects on your collective plate, what you can see coming over the horizon, likelihood of near-future changes, your productivity level, your processes and workflow system, your tools and applications, the other groups you interact with, and the environment. How would you rate your condition: average, below average, or above?
2. Define what a quantum leap would look like. It wouldn’t be a simple improvement—it would be a massive overhaul in how something is done. Perhaps a new technology or a new process. Determine what big productivity step you would take if you could. Paint a picture of the ideal productive workforce of the future!
3. Partner on the mission. Get your team together and share this vision of the future. Explain your ideas and specifically request their assistance. Brainstorm with them how you could magically jump to that place, if you could. Explain that you perceive this meeting as a springboard for bigger and better things, and get them caught up on the mission.
4. Create your roadmap. Document the specific goals that result by drawing a map like a treasure map. They should be big enough to be seen from a great distance away and far enough away that everyone must stretch to reach them. Agree on where you are now with a big “X” and the change that would have to occur. Back in the 1970s, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs set out to change the world of computing by making its power available to everyday people—a quantum leap. Both, in the personas of their companies Microsoft and Apple Computers, could see the future. They had a good idea of how to get there, and the team helped achieve it, point by point.
5. SWOT the challenges. Using the SWOT method, identify your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Determine, as Gates and Jobs did, where your Strengths and Opportunities will take you, and how they will get you there. While drawing your map, pencil in the “mountain ranges” and “rivers” (Threats) that will block your progress. Should you go around the big obstacles, or power straight through? Can you power through? Why not? Who or what will stop you? Remember, this is a team exercise, so have your people involved with every step. Some may surprise you with their innovative suggestions.
6. Start the bulldozer. As a modern leader, your role makes you a visionary, a cheerleader, and a facilitator: noble responsibilities no matter how you slice them. As a facilitator, you have the honor of making it easier for your people to follow along your chosen path and do their jobs. In the oil pipeline industry, surveying, and similar businesses requiring workers to cross great swaths of land, a “landman” precedes the crew, negotiating rights-of-way, easements, and other permissions from the many landowners along the way. You act as the team’s landman, removing obstacles to their advancement. In a sense you’re also a bulldozer, smoothing the way, filling in potholes, and clearing out trees and stumps that might slow them down. This may mean acquiring training for everyone who needs it or providing new phones, or an upgraded software—whatever it takes to make peoples’ lives easier and their work more profitable.
Poised on the Springboard
Just remember: there’s no such thing as the perfect time for anything, and if you wait for it, you may never begin. Instead, these six steps will help your team get a running start into your quantum leap into productivity stardom.